I’ll Fly Away

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who every day choose to love and care for other human beings and put all those needs before their own. What a beautiful testament to grace. This column is for you.

 

by Sadie Cracker

I’m standing in my kitchen making spaghetti for the third time this week and humming, “Traveling Kind” by Emmylou Harris. Four soccer games, a school diorama project, my full time job, kitchen cleaning has rendered any energy I might have for a Rachel Ray style dinner moot.  Suddenly, Johnny runs into the kitchen with his small hands clasped around something. “Mommy look what I found.” He said.

“What is it?” I said.

He opens his small, still fat, baby hands. At seven he’s so hopeful and excited about everything — a life untainted by all the disappointment and I’m afraid of what’s in his hands and that it’s something aweful and I’m gonna have to tell him to get rid of it.

“His name is Maxwell.” said Johnny.

And inside his hands sits a small brown frog that is no bigger than a quarter. “I’m gonna keep Maxwell.” He said. “He’s gonna be with me forever.”

I’m gonna let him down right now. All the hope in his face is gonna fall when I say the one thing I need to:

“Buddy, we can’t keep Maxwell.” I put my ear down near his small hands. “Maxwell just told me he has to be free. He needs to be outside and he needs to live his life. He’ll never be happy if we keep him inside.”

And Johnny’s eyes well up with tears. “If you love something you set it free. Daddy used to say that. It’s dumb. It’s dumb, dumb, dumb and I hate it.”

“It’s true. If you love Maxwell you gotta let him go find a river, or a blade of grass, and you just have to believe that you might see him again because he’ll remember how kind and tender you were with him and how much you cared about what he needed.” I said.

“Or he won’t.” said Johnny.

“And that’s okay too.” I said.

#############################################################

It’s Thursday night and Ladies Night and revamped old hymn night at Bear’s Biker bar in Coma and the publisher of Coma News Daily told me if I write one more story about, “playing dumb songs in a bar full of drunk locals” he won’t publish it. But it’s also Mother’s Day weekend and I once again reminded him that I’m a mom who works a full time job, raises kids, takes care of an ailing father, and that he is really doing a service to the female community by letting me have a voice in the paper.

“Just don’t be depressing.” He said. “Stop talking about love and realities. No one wants to read real stuff anymore especially when it’s written by a 40 year old woman.”

And Charlie, a local motorcycle enthusiast and the Coma Librarian, is up on stage playing, “Let Him Fly” by  Patty Griffin and it’s funny to hear him belt it out so strong and I look at the beer in front of me and giggle to hear Charlie, “I’m gonna let him fly. I’m gonna let him fly.”

witman

Bear, the local 30 year old skate rat punk and owner of the bar, is playing Go Fish with my Dad, Stan Bargemeyer, at the other side of the bar.

“Do you have a five.”

“Go fish, buddy.” said Stan.

“What?! How is that possible?? You just showed me your hand and you had a 5??” said Bear.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re crazy.” said Stan. And Stan, who remembered to put on his pants tonight and struggles in his Alzheimer’s, shows  Bear all of his cards.

“That’s a five.” said Bear.

“No buddy. That’s a six.”

“I’m gonna let him fly, ” sings Charlie. “I’m gonna let him fly.”

I’m waiting for Jack. Jack is late and it’s okay because tonight is the last night I’ll see him for quite some time. I thought after Michael died and left me alone that I wouldn’t love someone again. I was okay with being alone, it was lonely, but it was my pain. And as long as I was alone I knew I wouldn’t hurt again. Then Marybell posted my picture in local Paneara’s and somehow Jack appeared in my life.

But tonight he’s leaving for LA. He accepted a teaching position at UCLA and California is not the same as Coma.

“You could come with me.” said Jack.

“I can’t. I need to stay here and take care of my Dad. I need to stay here and take care of my kids.” I said.

“But you could come if you wanted to.” He said.

“You could stay if you wanted to.” I said.

“You could visit.” He said.

“You’re gonna be so busy.” I said. “With all those 20 year old coeds who think you are so amazing because you are successful.”

And I look at his face and all the lines of age and the beautiful way his entire forehead crinkles when he thinks about something and I’m old enough to no longer believe in fairy tales. I’m old enough to know that this life isn’t always fair.

“You gotta let Maxwell go, Johnny.” I said.

And up onstage Charlie sings “Mary” by Patty Griffin and promises that the next song will be “I’ll Fly Away” which is the first song I learned to play on the banjo. I remember my grandma in her apron in the kitchen making a pie for my grandfather from scratch and humming “I’ll Fly Away” and it’s hard to remember how beautiful a moment like that is when you see someone just so grateful to love another human being.

“Sadie Cracker. Sadie Cracker. Come up here and sing with me.” said Charlie.

I shake my head, no. “I’m waiting for someone.” and Charlie laughs. It’s only my father, Bear, Charlie, and me in this bar.

“Just come up here and sing.” He said.

So I pick up my acoustic guitar and walk to the stage.

“What are you gonna play?” said Charlie.

“I think,’ a love that will never grow old’ by Emmylou Harris.” I said.

“Good choice.”

And I strum the guitar three times and start to sing. My father is still at the end of the bar fighting with Bear about a 5 card.

‘Go to sleep may your sweet dreams come true

Just lay back in my arms for one more night

I’ve this crazy old notion that calls me sometimes

Saying this one’s the love of our lives…’

And the door opens and I see Jack standing there with his scratchy beard and great hair. I see him standing there and I know I will miss him so much.

And Johnny’s eyes well up with tears. “If you love something you set it free. Daddy used to say that. It’s dumb. It’s dumb, dumb, dumb and I hate it.”

‘I know a love that will never grow old’  I sing. I sing it loud because I want to believe in it. I don’t want to give up on that.

 

 

 

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